Kolhapur: Kolhapur district and the two Lok Sabha seats in the district including Kolhapur and Hatkanangale assume significance when it comes to the politics of Western Maharashtra. These are the two seats where Maratha leader and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar had to face defeat in the 2009 elections.
NCP had lost both the seats despite aggressive campaign by none other than Pawar himself. Interestingly, Pawar has refrained from making any strong or typical statements on either Kolhapur or Hatkanangale in the past one month. Political observers feel that the Maratha strongman may have decided to take 'revenge' for his 2009 defeat this time. They said that the NCP will ensure the defeat of Raju Shetty as well as Sanjay Mandlik, son of sitting Kolhapur MP Sadashiv Mandlik.
Kolhapur is the city of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj and dominated by the Congress ever since the first election took place there. Barring Dajiba Desai of Peasants and Workers' Party, who became MP in 1977 after Emergency, Congress or NCP has retained the seat.
In the 2009 election, sitting NCP MP Sadashiv Mandlik had contested as an independent and won the election. During this election, Pawar, who otherwise does not use foul language had stooped down to the level of referring to Mandlik as `Basha Bail' (useless old bullock) and everyone was surprised by his provocative overtures. This resulted in Mandlik's victory and NCP losing both the seats of Kolhapur and Hatkanangale.
Kolhapur has six assembly segments -- Kolhapur North, Kolhapur South, Karveer, Kagal, Radhanagari and Chandgad. The other Lok Sabha constituency of Hatkanangale has six assembly segments of Shahuwadi, Shirol, Hatkanangale, Ichalkaranji, Islampur and Shirala.
Sadashiv Mandlik, a wrestler of his time, won Kolhapur seat in 1998 on a Congress ticket but after the Vajpayee government failed to prove majority, the country went for elections in 1999. Mandlik, a Pawar loyalist, had retained the Kolhapur seat on NCP ticket in 1999 and 2004. After being denied ticket in 2009, he became a rebel and contested as an independent and became MP for the fourth time. His predecessor Udaysinhrao Gaikwad also was Kolhapur MP for four terms between 1980 and 1998.
The Shiv Sena has fielded Sanjay Mandlik, son of Sadashiv Mandlik, while NCP has fielded Dhananjay alias Munna Mahadik who has contested against Sadashiv Mandlik in 2004. In 2009, Mandlik had defeated Chhatrapati Sambhajiraje and Mahadik had helped Mandlik.
Even though Sadashiv Mandlik is a formidable candidate, his son Sanjay is comparatively a weak candidate who would thrive on traditional Shiv Sena votes which are to the tune of just less than two lakh. Mandlik would also get an advantage of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, which is part of the mega alliance of BJP-Shiv Sena and RPI. He would also get advantage of RPI votes.
On the contrary, Mahadik himself is a strong candidate who has great organisational skills. He has his own network in all the talukas and his contacts in political social circles in addition to influential lobbies would be helping him this time. Moreover, Pawar has instructed all the leaders to bury the hatchet to win both the seats in Kolhapur.
As far as Hatkanangale is concerned, Raju Shetty was hero in 2004 and the situation is not the same now. Shetty, who hails from the Jain community, would face a tough fight from Kallappanna Awade, who is not only a veteran in cooperative movement and politics but also has contributed to Jain community.
Awade has long-time association with almost all cooperatives and he is the man behind the success of Jawahar Shetkari Sahakari sugar factory and Ichalkaranji Janata Bank.
Minister Jayant Patil, Satej Patil as well as leader of Jansurajya Party Vinay Kore of Warananagar are also going to work for Mahadik and Awade which would make it difficult for Raju Shetty and Sanjay Mandlik this time.
Pawar may go all-out to defeat Shetty, Mandlik
The Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have a seat-sharing formula in Maharashtra in which the Congress would contest 26 seats while NCP will fight 22 Lok Sabha seats. Giving a surprise to everyone, the NCP decided to give away Hatkanangale seat to Congress without demanding anything against it. The revised seat-sharing ratio is 27-21 and the logic behind this sacrifice is that Pawar wants to go all-out to take revenge and defeat Shetty and Mandlik at one go. Kallappanna Awade is a Congress loyalist and would not have come to the NCP and the NCP too did not have any formidable candidate against Shetty. Giving away Hatkanangale to Congress means a win-win situation for Congress and Pawar.
Kolhapur: Dhananjay Mahadik (NCP-Cong) v/s Sanjay Mandlik (SS-BJP)
Hatkanangale: Raju Shetty (Mega-Alliance ) v/s Kallappanna Awade (Cong-NCP)